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Five of the tunes here were written, the rest improvised; a good enough balance to determine the rapport between the two. Do they get their chops off only from the written note or can they fathom and spar, merge and mate with the thought processes that emanate as they play, and at the end of it all hold up a logical whole? Ted Levine and Peter Madsen succeed, even as they move across different forms and structures that they essay on their musical roundabout.
Levine blows hard and hot on the alto, adding a few breathy notes as he works up “Three Short Pieces,” comprised of three segments: “Dawn/Storm/Nightsounds.” There is melody here, but that dissipates as Madsen scurries across the piano keys and disperses the notes. When Levine comes back it is time for free expression that catapults them into a tumultuous whirl before calm descends and the tune is taken out in quiet grace. More invention comes on “Sanctum,” a placid tune that throbs with an inner energy fired by Levine on the bass clarinet. Madsen is happy playing the role of accompanist on this one, as he is on “Anion,” where Levine blows way out billowing whirligigs in a smouldering piece of action!
The written pieces have their own charm. The trajectories that impact “Indra” are set in motion by Madsen, his energy and iridescent flow of ideas coruscating from his right hand while his left annotates those notes with deft chord work – to which Levine adds a sinuous Indian melody in satisfying counterpoint built layer by layer. Interestingly, honks and squawks mark “Picasso’s Blue(s) Period.” Levine also adds deep hued blues, the harmonic structure of which is expanded by Madsen. Have fun with this one.
I love jazz because it mixes intellect and emotion in a very spontaneous way.
I was first exposed to jazz by liberating a Coltrane and a Pharoah Sanders record from a friend in NYC and listening to them over and over until I got it.
My advice to new listeners is you have to take the time to listen to some jazz tunes a number of times until it starts to make sense.